Faculty & Staff

Maryela Amaro Faculty Member amaro@cjacademy.org Bio
Maryela joined the Chicago Jesuit Academy community in the summer of 2022. Prior to that, she spent 5 years working in the early childhood field on the west side of Chicago. Maryela studied elementary education at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign and is looking forward to continuing her education in early childhood education. She is currently teaching 3rd grade humanities and social studies at CJA.

Joanna Balla-Elliott Faculty Member balla-elliott@cjacademy.org Bio
Joanna Balla-Elliott holds a degree in Literary Studies and Education from Middlebury College. Upon graduating, she joined the Shady Hill School’s Teacher Training Center as an apprentice teacher. She taught in both a private school and a Boston public school during her apprentice year. During the TTC year, Joanna also worked to receive a Masters of Arts in Curriculum and Teaching from Boston University. She went on to teach at an all-boys school in Massachusetts for two years before moving to Chicago. Currently, Joanna serves as a Language Arts and Reading teacher on the 5th and 6th grade team at Chicago Jesuit Academy.
Thomas Beckley Principal beckley@cjacademy.org Bio
Thomas Beckley began his career as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Columbia University. While serving as an officer in Rome, Italy, he completed the first cycles of Philosophy and Theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He has traveled throughout Europe and is fluent in Italian and German. He holds a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University Chicago and formerly taught Social Studies at Gordon Technical High School and coached cross country and track.
Andrea Bonaccorsi Faculty Member bonaccorsi@cjacademy.org Bio
Andrea Bonaccorsi joined CJA’s faculty in 2019 as the 7th Grade Language Arts and Reading Teacher. Prior to joining CJA, she graduated from Marquette University with a degree in Secondary Education and English in 2016. She began her career in education at Messmer Saint Rose in Milwaukee, WI. In her two years at Saint Rose, Andrea taught 7th Grade Literacy, Social Studies, and Religion classes and coached the Girls on the Run team. From 2018-2019, she completed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities at The University of Chicago while working at the Behavioral Insights in Parenting Lab at The Harris School of Public Policy.
Thelma Breckenridge College & Career Persistence Counselor breckenridge@cjacademy.org Bio
Thelma Breckenridge joined CJA in 2022. Prior to her time at CJA, she worked for organizations that served youths with career and trade opportunities. Thelma’s passion is to educate and empower the next generation of young leaders. Three words that describe her are Inquisitive, Driven, and Passionate.

Donna Bronner Speech & Language Pathologist bronner@cjacademy.org Bio
Donna Bronner recently joined the CJA community in the Fall of 2022. Prior to joining CJA as part-time faculty, she served as the full-time Speech Language Pathologist at Percy Julian Middle School for over 25 years in Oak Park-School District #97. Mrs. Bronner earned her Masters of Health Science in Communications Disorders from Governors State University. She also earned her clinical competency certification, or CCC’s with licensure through ASHA and the State of Illinois. Mrs. Bronner holds a second Masters in Education Leadership with a Type 75 endorsement in Administration, and is currently enrolled in the SLPD program at Northwestern University. Mrs. Bronner is a Minister, and Educational leader in her community where she founded a NFP Organization called “Bridge To Destiny” for the purpose of assisting & counseling women impacted by domestic violence. She enjoys spending time with family, reading, decorating, traveling, and creating programs for empowering others.
Keith Brooks Specials Faculty Member brooks@cjacademy.org Bio
Keith Brooks is an active performing and recording drummer in the Chicago area. He gained an interest in drums at the age of two years while watching his uncle play every Sunday morning. He began formal training in elementary school in Oak Park and discovered jazz. The guidance he received in elementary, junior high and high school led to a Bachelor’s of Music in Music Business from Elmhurst College and Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance from DePaul University. At DePaul he studied with Bob Rummage. These degrees have led him to be a private drum instructor. He has traveled overseas to perform in The Czech Republic and Canada. He has shared the stage with a number of great Jazz musicians and composers such as Phil Woods, Benny Goldson, Steve Weist, Bill Holman, Warren Luening, Tom Scott, Patrick Williams, Gary Smulyan, Jeff Hamilton and Mark Colby. He is also currently the Minister of Music at the Chicago Salem M.B.H. Church in Chicago, where he instructs the choirs and musicians in Gospel music. He is currently endorsed by T-Cymbals and Scorpion Percussion (drum stick company).
Prince Brunt Instructional Assistant brunt@cjacademy.org Bio
Prince Brunt is a member of CJA’s 2015 class. He has worked in the restaurant, automotive, and retail industries. Prince is a lifelong Chicagoan and his favorite NBA team is the Lakers. He currently works in our 5th grade classrooms as an Instructional Assistant.
Trinity Campagna Faculty Member campagna@cjacademy.org Bio
Trinity Campagna graduated from The University of Chicago with a Bachelors of Science in Molecular Engineering on the Chemistry and Soft Materials Track. As an Odyssey Scholar at UChicago, Trinity worked in the Tirrell Lab doing research on polyelectrolyte complex micelles and DNA self-assembly. She also worked as a barista, a door attendant at the university pub, and as a student ambassador at the Maroon Line while completing her undergraduate studies. Outside of work and academics, she also enjoys music and was a member of Unaccompanied Women A Cappella at UChicago as well being the president of a cappella on campus before graduating. Currently, Trinity teaches 5th and 6th grade science and assists with 5/6th mathematics at CJA.
Marques Carroll Specials Faculty Member carroll@cjacademy.org Bio

Chicago-based trumpeter Marques Carroll is a bold performer and passionate educator, he is dedicated to preserving the authentic culture of jazz and spreading his holistic love of music around the world.

Born into a musical family in St. Louis, Marques fell in love with the trumpet when he was only 8 years old. His grandfather worked with jazz legend Clark Terry who would become a major influence on the young musician. Marques grew up absorbing the blues of Louis Armstrong and the laid back sounds of Miles Davis, eventually going on to study music at DePaul University graduating in 2001 with his BA in Jazz Studies Performance.

Marques has worked and shared the stage with jazz powerhouses like Carmen Bradford, Dee Dee Bridgewater (Count Basie Band), Etienne Charles, Christian McBride, Jon Faddis, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Randy Weston (Chicago Jazz Ensemble). Marques’ compositions are soulful explorations of culture and consciousness. A storyteller at heart, he uses his horn to break down barriers between genres, writing evocative music that speaks directly to the soul. “Every instrument plays a character,” Marques says, describing his methods. “I want people to open their minds to what the story is about. Every piece I write is purposeful.”

In addition to his prolific performing career, Marques is an accomplished educator. He cultivated a robust jazz program for the TF South High School music department in the south suburbs of Chicago. He was the leading Jazz trumpet instructor for New Trier High School’s music department for 16 years. He has worked with the Jazz Institute as a clinician throughout Chicago. He also regularly holds clinics and master classes around the country as well at Universities, High schools and prestigious Jazz festivals.

Marques continues to educate students in music at UIC as a trumpet instructor and Jazz Combo director while working at CJA as a faculty member. He created the music program for Chicago Jesuit Academy and continues to develop the music program now in his 16th year. He also worked and contributed to the CP department as a counselor.

Marques is the leader of the Trumpet Summit and co-leader of the Chicago Soul Jazz Collective, and also a permanent sub-member of The Count Basie Orchestra. His solo debut record, The Ancestors’ Call, which was a Grammy Considered best Jazz album of the year in 2021 is now available everywhere. Marques also received an Emmy for his contribution to the documentary, Invisible History: Middle Florida’s Hidden Roots, on PBS.

Darryl Clayton Social Worker clayton@cjacademy.org Bio
Darryl Clayton is a native Chicagoan and a graduate from Englewood High School, Columbia College (B.A., Television Broadcasting) and the University of Chicago (MSW, SSA Program). He has over 15 years of direct services with children, youth, adults and families. Darryl’s direct services career includes being a part-time gym teacher, a licensed child welfare specialist, a correctional youth counselor, an adolescent services coordinator, a family reconnection specialist, an assistant project director for a federal grant project and a clinical therapist. These experiences have allowed him to work with a wide variety of young people throughout the Chicagoland area to help them identify and process their needs while developing strategies for goal achievement and positive, strength-based, pro-social outcomes.
Jessica Green Clement Senior Development Officer green@cjacademy.org Bio
Jessica Green joined the CJA Development team in late 2018. She attended DePaul University and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Advertising with a minor in Sales Leadership and a concentration in Latino Media and Communication. She began her career working for private companies focusing mainly on Sales and Operations. While attending DePaul, Jessica served as a Jumpstart Corps Member and worked with children in under-resourced neighborhoods to help strengthen literacy skills and build family engagement. Her experience includes marketing, account management, data analysis, leadership and strategy.
Michelle Concepcion High School Bridge Counselor concepcion@cjacademy.org Bio
Michelle joined the Chicago Jesuit Academy community in the summer of 2022. Prior to that, she spent a year as an educator at Intrinsic Schools. Michelle graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a focus on Education Policy and Chicanx and Latinx Studies. She is a current graduate student at DePaul University studying Curriculum Studies. She is currently working under the High School Bridge department at CJA along with their partnership with Chavez Multicultural Elementary School.

Amber Cooper High School Bridge Counselor acooper@cjacademy.org Bio
Amber Cooper is a former multimedia journalist for a news station in Rockford, IL. During her time as a journalist, she covered various topics ranging from youth mental health to lifestyle and entertainment. She received her Bachelor’s from Howard University and a Graduate degree from Northwestern University Medill. Amber is passionate about education reform and hopes to empower the next generation to succeed and achieve their full potential. Outside of work, Amber enjoys creative art activities such as pottery and painting.

Charlotte Curtis Director of Parent Partnership curtis@cjacademy.org Bio
Charlotte Curtis came to CJA with over 15 years of social and customer service experience. She worked with the Cook County Social Service Department within the Domestic Violence and Diversity Units. She was co-owner of Curtis & Curtis Mobile Notary Service where she focused on working with companies and clients notarizing various documents. She earned her Bachelor degree in Law Enforcement Administration and a Master’s degree in Sociology from Western Illinois University. She has a son who graduated from CJA as a member of the Class of 2015 and currently attends Saint John’s University in Collegeville Minnesota. She along with her family have been active members of United Baptist Church located in the North Lawndale Community over the past 20 years.
Elizabeth Del Toro Assistant Director of High School Bridge deltoro@cjacademy.org Bio
Liz joined the High School Bridge team after teaching math, science, and social studies in Spanish at St. Procopius Dual Language School in Chicago for three years. Liz earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from ITESO, the Jesuit University of Guadalajara. After college, Liz joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in New York City, where she served as a community liaison for a year and has passionately and actively worked in Education ever since.
Arieanna Dorsey Instructional Assistant dorsey@cjacademy.org Bio
Arieanna is a graduate of Harold Washington Community College where she received her associate’s degree in elementary education. In her first year, she did a lot of observing and volunteering with younger educators. She was previously employed at Bath and Body Works as a sales associate. In the summer of 2022, Arieanna was blessed with the opportunity to join the CJA community and closely work with the 3/4th grade students as an Instructional Assistant. She is devoted to successfully receiving her bachelor and master’s degrees and becoming a younger grade level teacher in the future.
Ravae Duhaney Director of Talent duhaney@cjacademy.org Bio
Originally from Maryland, Ravae Duhaney attended the University of Maryland Baltimore County where she studied Dance and Elementary Education. Upon graduating, she joined Teach for America and relocated to Chicago to teach Pre-Kindergarten. She received a Masters of Science in Early Childhood Education from Dominican University and continued teaching children ages three to ten for a total of ten years in Chicago, Guatemala City, and Shanghai. Since joining CJA in 2019, she has served as a faculty member, Development team member and Volunteer Coordinator. She now serves as CJA’s Director of Talent.
Anne Durkin Learning Resource Center Faculty durkin@cjacademy.org Bio
Anne Durkin arrived at CJA in 2010 after graduating from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Human Development. Anne provides students with academic interventions in our Learning Resource Center. Previously, she was a faculty member at CJA for 12 years teaching mathematics and serving as a grade level dean.
Maria Eidietis Faculty Member eidietis@cjacademy.org Bio
Maria Eidietis came to Chicago in 1999 after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Notre Dame. She taught middle school reading and language arts and earned a Masters of Humanities from the University of Chicago before joining the founding faculty of Chicago Jesuit Academy in 2005. After time away, Maria rejoined the faculty of CJA in 2018 and currently teaches 6th Grade Language Arts/Reading.
Lauren Fessler Director of High School Bridge fessler@cjacademy.org Bio
Lauren Fessler joined CJA in 2018. She started her career as a Teach For America corps member, and she taught fifth grade and middle school STEM for four years. In addition to teaching, she coached Western School of Science and Technology’s soccer team to a state championship. Lauren is originally from Lexington, Kentucky, and she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology with a minor in Education, Schooling, and Society from the University of Notre Dame.
Andrea Finnegan CFO finnegan@cjacademy.org Bio
Andrea began her career as a certified public accountant with Crowe, LLP. She went on to hold financial and operations leadership roles at various nonprofit organizations in the areas of homelessness, disabilities and higher education. Andrea earned her BA in Accounting from St Mary’s University, a certificate in nonprofit excellence from the University of Notre Dame and a certificate in K-12 education from the Art Institute of Chicago.
Haley Fischer Development Officer fischer@cjacademy.org Bio
Haley Fischer comes to CJA after working as a Residential Counselor at Boys Hope Girls Hope, where she managed one of their boys’ homes for four years. While working full time, she pursued her Masters in Social Work with a specialization in Leadership and Development and a sub-specialization in Group Work at Loyola University of Chicago and graduated in May of 2021.
Roger Garvert Development Officer garvert@cjacademy.org Bio
Roger Garvert joined the Development Office at CJA in June of 2019, after over 30 years of experience in sales and engineering in the telecommunications and semiconductor industries. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with high distinction from the University of Kansas, a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver. He is an active volunteer at his church and board member of a local non-profit organization supporting adult day services.
Gretchen Geerts-Melaniphy Learning Resource Center Faculty geerts@cjacademy.org Bio
Gretchen Geerts-Melaniphy joined Chicago Jesuit Academy in 2019, after teaching in the Archdiocese of Chicago for 6 years. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Theology at Marquette University and her Masters in Elementary Education from Loyola University Chicago as part of the LU-CHOICE (Loyola University Chicago Opportunities in Catholic Education) program. She earned her Learning Behavior Specialist – 1 endorsement through Saint Xavier University and is looking forward to working with the students in the Learning Resource Center as a Math Interventionist.
Gerry Geyer Director of Facilities geyer@cjacademy.org Bio
Gerry Geyer joined CJA’s team in the winter of 2015. Prior to CJA, he spent two decades in the Futures Industry, in addition to several positions in retail and office management.
Peter Gosselar Chief Information Officer gosselar@cjacademy.org Bio
Originally hailing from Holland, Michigan, Peter Gosselar earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science from Kenyon College and a Master of Arts in Social Science from the University of Chicago. He came to CJA following three years as a political campaign consultant and three years as a researcher for the Washington, DC-based consumer rights group Public Citizen. While at Kenyon, Peter worked the college’s tech support line and was a member of the Varsity Swim team.
Mary Grawe Vice President of Development grawe@cjacademy.org Bio
Mary Grawe came to CJA having spent three years working for a fundraising management company at both the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and the University of Chicago. Prior to this, she spent two years teaching fourth grade in the Mississippi Delta through Teach For America. During that time, she also served as the director of the school musical. It was her experience working at Lexington Elementary School that led her to join the CJA community. Mary is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Dayton.
Terese Hagerty Dean of Programs & Faculty Member hagerty@cjacademy.org Bio
Terese Hagerty joined the CJA community in 2012. Prior to that, she taught math, science and religion in Montgomery, Alabama. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from Marquette University and a Master of Education degree as a member of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). Terese teaches science and math, coordinates co-curricular programs at CJA, and serves as a teacher coach in the Notre Dame STEM Trustey Fellows program.
Alex Hess Manager of Data Operations hess@cjacademy.org Bio
Alex Hess began his career as a tutor at an Upward Bound program where he discovered his passion for creating equity in education. From there, he moved to Saga Education where he tutored high school students in math inside of CPS schools. Joining CJA’s High School Bridge Program in 2022, Alex brings his passion for justice and equity to the CJA team, helping alumni find their high school of best fit. He received his bachelor’s in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago in 2015. Outside of work, Alex likes to play D and D and all kinds of strategy games.
Armario Hill, Sr. Instructional Assistant hill@cjacademy.org Bio
Armario Hill is a lifelong member of the Austin Community. He is a graduate of Charles A. Prosser Career Academy. He has worked in the travel industry, the United States Post Office and for the US Census Bureau. As the father of one of our alumni (Armario Hill, Jr.), Armario has volunteered countless hours at CJA before joining our staff.
Matthew Houlihan Faculty Member houlihan@cjacademy.org Bio
Matthew Houlihan earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Master of Education from the University of Notre Dame. He taught in Mobile, Alabama and Champaign, Illinois before joining the CJA faculty in 2009. A former dean at CJA, he now serves as a full time faculty member in the social studies and science departments.
Dana Jenkins College & Career Persistence Clinical Counselor jenkins@cjacademy.org Bio
Dana Jenkins joined CJA in 2017 after three years working as a K-8 School Counselor with Chicago Public Schools. Prior to his time with CPS, he served as a Clinical Counselor with an alternative public charter school in Washington, DC. Dana earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Anthropology and Spanish from Knox College and later earned a Master of Education and Human Development in School Counseling from George Washington University. He loves working alongside current CJA students and alumni through the College & Career Persistence Office. Outside of CJA, he enjoys cooking for his family, playing sports (soccer, football, baseball), and learning to play various instruments.
Carole Kash Librarian kash@cjacademy.org Bio
Carole Kash joined CJA as a volunteer in January of 2018. She received a BS in Chemistry from Loyola in 1981, followed by an MBA in Finance also from Loyola in 1983. She then worked as a Vice President and Division Manager of Commercial Banking with American National Bank, followed by earning a JD from Chicago Kent in 1996. While raising her two children, she was a librarian at Holy Family Catholic Academy for ten years, along with fundraising and volunteering at several Chicago area non-profit organizations.
Jay Kemper Director of College & Career Persistence kemper@cjacademy.org Bio
Jay Kemper joined CJA after three years of service with the human rights organization, Heartland Alliance. At Heartland, he taught and counseled immigrant and refugee youth while working to reunify them with their families. Jay is bilingual in Spanish and has worked with students across the globe, teaching at a grade school in Santiago, an orphanage in Buenos Aires, and a bilingual college-preparatory high school in Budapest. A native of Chicago, he holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish from the University of Dayton magna cum laude.
Pamela Kiefer School Nurse kiefer@cjacademy.org Bio
Pam Kiefer has been a Nurse for over 25 years with experience working at Evanston Hospital, as a Pulmonary Nurse with NorthShore University Health Systems, with professional athletes of a Chicago sports team, and as an independent consultant for pharmaceutical companies developing new medications. She has worked as a School Nurse for over 12 years, with experience working with Pre-Kindergarten through High School & College age students, including Special Education . She is an American Heart Association CPR and First Aid Instructor and Illinois Department of Public Health Certified Vision and Hearing Screener. Pam is a member of the National Association of School Nurses and the Illinois State School Nurse Association. She grew up in Naperville and has lived in the Chicagoland area most of her life.
Katie Kuhns Faculty Member kuhns@cjacademy.org Bio
Katie Kuhns is a member of the lower school team who came to CJA after three years of teaching in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, she attended Creighton University, where she earned a degree in Justice and Society with a minor in Political Science. Katie then went on to earn her Masters of Education in Elementary Education from Loyola University Chicago through the LU-CHOICE service through teaching program.
Olivia LaPointe Social Worker lapointe@cjacademy.org Bio
Olivia LaPointe is a native of Woodridge, Illinois. She got both her B.S.W. and M.S.W. from Loyola University Chicago in 2020 and 2021. Olivia previously interned at Lester Elementary School in Downers Grove, where she learned how to serve the emotional, social, and behavioral needs of students through a strengths-based perspective. Olivia enjoys spending time with her friends and family in her free time, as well as tending to her houseplants.
Mateo Lebron Facilities Manager lebron@cjacademy.org Bio
Mateo Lebron is a facilities manager at CJA. He likes to describe himself as outgoing and joyful. He is a people person and loves to make people laugh. His favorite hobby is playing football and most importantly enjoying time with his family. Mateo completed a 2-year apprenticeship program for maintenance and strives to keep learning everyday.
Matthew Lynch President lynch@cjacademy.org Bio
Matthew Lynch began his career in education as a teacher at a federal prison in Virginia and a juvenile detention facility in Maryland. He later taught and coached at St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, a Jesuit Nativity middle school in Baltimore. Upon returning to his hometown of Chicago, Matthew worked as a teacher and administrator at St. Ignatius College Prep. He subsequently assembled and led the team that has founded Chicago Jesuit Academy. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Georgetown cum laude and a Master of Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis. He is a recipient of St. Ignatius College Prep’s Alumni Medal, the Community Renewal Society’s 35-under-35 Award, St. Josaphat Parish’s Unity Award, and Georgetown University’s Kraft Medal.
Rebecca Malley Learning Resource Center Faculty malley@cjacademy.org Bio
Rebecca Malley is an Interventionist in the Learning Resource Center. She joined us after volunteering here for several years. Rebecca is passionate about equity in education and has many years of experience volunteering in youth organizations. She is a graduate of the University of Washington where she studied Economics and UCSD where she focused on Marketing and Product Development. Rebecca enjoyed a career in Industrial Marketing and Product Development before leaving to focus on family and is now thrilled to be working professionally at CJA.
Mike Mason Dean of 7th Grade & Faculty Member mason@cjacademy.org Bio
Mike Mason came to CJA after spending two years with Teach For America in the Mississippi Delta, teaching 7th and 8th grade math at Hazlehurst Middle School. He graduated from Boston College, earning a Bachelor of Arts in History. While at Boston College he volunteered as a tutor at a local grade school, piquing his interest in education. An avid sports enthusiast, he also has served as a football and basketball coach. In addition to his work at CJA, he recently completed a Master of Business Administration degree at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Anne Metzger Benefits Assistant metzger@cjacademy.org Bio
Anne Metzger began her career at Continental Bank as a Personal Trust Administrator. She then worked as a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) for Ernst & Young for several years where she created and delivered financial education programs for companies and coordinated with human resources and benefits personnel. She also worked closely with high net worth individuals/families doing personal financial planning. She received her Bachelors of Science in Marketing at the University of Illinois (1989) in addition to her Masters in Business Administration in Finance from DePaul University (1994). During a career break while raising her four children, she made volunteering a priority and served in numerous roles at St. Francis Xavier Church and School in addition to Nazareth Academy High School.
Mary Mohanon Instructional Assistant mohanon@cjacademy.org Bio
Mary Mohanan is a graduate of the Austin High School. She worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for several years as an Investment Trader. She also worked as Director of the C.B. Williams Choraleers and is a soloist for the Mercy Seat Baptist Church. Mary is a mother of one child and a grandmother of five.
Megan Ptacek Mortensen Vice President of College & Career Persistence mortensen@cjacademy.org Bio
Megan Mortensen began her career as a reporter for The American Banker, a daily financial newspaper in New York. In 2001, she was accepted to the New York City Teaching Fellows Program, a program to bring new teachers into under-performing schools through alternative certifications. She taught seventh-grade Language Arts in Brooklyn, New York. Through that program she received her master’s degree in secondary education at Brooklyn College. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Villanova University and is a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep. Before joining Chicago Jesuit Academy, she worked as a Project Manager for KHLowery Consulting, a higher education publishing consulting firm in Chicago.
Meredith Mosbacher Director of Communications & Benefactor Engagement mosbacher@cjacademy.org Bio
Meredith Mosbacher’s experience has included working at Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Women in the World running their Young Women’s Leadership Conference, serving as Chief Media Officer for TO THE MARKET | Survivor-made Goods and creating the curriculum for Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls’ Road Show. Before joining Chicago Jesuit Academy, Meredith worked as Program Director at art nonprofit, Project&. She has her MSc in Gender, Media, and Culture from the London School of Economic’s Gender Institute, and concentrated in both Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences and Performance Studies at Brown University.
Anthony Munzing Faculty Member munzing@cjacademy.org Bio
Tony Munzing is a graduate of Merrimack College where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Education. He served at various schools in the greater Boston area where he grew his passion for Catholic education. Upon graduating, he began his career through the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. During his time in ACE, Tony earned his M.Ed. in Elementary Education while teaching at Holy Cross Central School in Indianapolis, IN. In addition to teaching, he served as Athletic Director and coach of basketball, football, and baseball programs. Tony is very excited to work with the CJA community as a 5th grade teacher!
Quincy Murry IT Manager murry@cjacademy.org Bio
Quincy Murry joined CJA’s Technology Department in July of 2022. With a decade of experience in the IT industry, he has a proven track record of success in leading teams and implementing innovative solutions. Born and raised in Chicago, he developed a love for all things tech from an early age. Quincy is happily married with three children, and enjoys spending free time exploring new technologies and working on side projects. He is an active volunteer at his church and in the community.
Terra Nelson Faculty Member tnelson@cjacademy.org Bio
Terra Nelson is a faculty member at CJA. She comes to CJA after earning a Bachelors of Arts in Education from Saint Mary’s college in 2020. She then began her career as a member of the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. During her time at ACE, she spent two years in San Antonio, TX at Saint John Berchman School teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade while earning a Master of Education degree.

Miranda Olander Career and Community Partnerships Manager olander@cjacademy.org Bio
Miranda Olander first got a taste for education in Chicago Public Schools when she began her year of service with City Year in 2016. She worked to tutor and mentor 3rd-grade students at Chalmer’s Elementary School in North Lawndale. She has over 8 years of experience in customer service and working with students ages 5 to 25. Miranda earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Spanish from Monmouth College. She is so happy to have joined the CJA family and is grateful every day for the opportunity to work with CJA students and alumni.
Candace Ousley College & Career Persistence Counselor ousley@cjacademy.org Bio
Candace M. Ousley, our new College & Career Persistence Counselor from Chicago, IL, was born and raised in our very own Austin Community. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology in 2011 and her master’s degree in Human Services in 2018. Most of her professional experience has been in higher education working for different universities in the Admissions Department. For the past 2 years, she was an Executive Admission Counselor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in downtown Chicago where she assisted students through enrollment, helping with FAFSA and making sure they were prepared for class. She also spent some time working for DCFS as a Foster Care Specialist helping reunite children with their families and find them the proper resources.
Alzario Palmer Classroom Aide alzariopalmer@cjacademy.org Bio
Danielle Pernini Director of Development Operations pernini@cjacademy.org Bio
Danielle Pernini joined CJA’s Business and Development team in 2018. A Chicago-suburbs native, she graduated from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Danielle has served in various educational settings throughout her career – from middle school to higher education, in both for-profit and non-profit institutions. Her experience includes communications and marketing, recruitment, event planning, and fundraising.
Caroline Rooney Faculty Member rooney@cjacademy.org Bio
Caroline Rooney is in her third year as a faculty member at CJA. Prior to her time at CJA, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Latino Studies from Notre Dame in 2018. She then began her career as a member of the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. During her time in ACE, Caroline spent two years in Indianapolis at Holy Cross Central School where she taught fourth and fifth grade, served as the athletic director, and earned a Master of Education degree. At CJA, she teaches humanities, social studies, and supports the bike club.
Jamarrio Rule Development Officer rule@cjacademy.org Bio
Jae Rule graduated from CJA in 2013 and went on to attend Culver Academies for high school and Central Michigan University for college. He now serves as a Development Officer at CJA. Using his unique experiences and problem solving skills gained from navigating diverse communities, and his passion for mentorship and providing opportunities for those who come after him, he now works to do exactly that and to create a more equitable and fair tomorrow for students and leaders of underrepresented communities
Obed Sanchez Manager of Post Secondary Pathways sanchez@cjacademy.org Bio
Obed Liera Sanchez joined CJA in December of 2022 as a College and Career Persistence Counselor. A Chicago native and University of Illinois at Chicago graduate, he is an accomplished educator with experience in social service, higher education, project management, and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. He has a strong dedication and commitment to leading students towards meaningful employment, providing trauma-informed support throughout different areas of focus, and developing effective programs and processes.He has worked in organizations such as Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Erie Family Health Center, and the University of Illinois at Chicago which have all empowered his development of a diverse range of skills, including facilitating workshops and programs, managing teams, and coordinating various initiatives.
Susan Schaefer Faculty Member schaefer@cjacademy.org Bio
Susan Schaefer joined the CJA faculty in 2022 after working as an attorney in Chicago. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Grinnell College, a Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and is currently working on a Masters of Education at Dominican University. Currently, Susan serves as a Social Studies, Science and Math teacher in the 7th and 8th grade team.
Billy Schauer Faculty Member schauer@cjacademy.org Bio
Billy Schauer was first introduced to Jesuit principles when he attended Saint Ignatius College Prep for high school. Those ideals had a profound impact on him and guided him towards additional Jesuit institutions. First, Boston College, where he majored in Human Development and Sociology with a minor in History. Upon graduation, he returned home and joined the Loyola University-Chicago Opportunities in Catholic Education (LU-CHOICE) program where he earned an M.Ed. in Elementary Education while teaching at a small Catholic school on the southwest side of the city. He remained at that school for eight more years, primarily teaching Social Studies, coaching basketball, and moderating the student council. During that time, he also earned an M.Ed. in English Language Teaching and Learning and an M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision at Loyola University-Chicago. He is incredibly excited for the opportunity to contribute further to the Jesuit mission through teaching at CJA!
Meredith Schmitt Faculty Member schmitt@cjacademy.org Bio
Meredith Schmitt joined the CJA community in the summer of 2017 and is now a member of the Lower School team. She graduated from Miami University in Oxford, OH, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education with concentrations in math, social studies, and science for grades 4-9. She is originally from Cincinnati, OH.
Amber Smith Social Worker asmith@cjacademy.org Bio
Amber Smith is a native of the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side and a graduate of Michele Clark High School. She attended Concordia University Chicago where she studied Psychology and Criminal Justice and earned a Bachelor of Arts. Shortly after, Amber dived into public service by providing critical mental health services to one of the largest homeless shelters in the city of Chicago. She was inspired by this work and decided to continue her education in the field of Social Work. Amber went on to obtain a Master of Social Work from Dominican University and to also become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in the state of Illinois. Prior to CJA, Amber provided parent education and mental health services to teen mothers at Family Focus in Chicago’s Lawndale community. She has found her passion in serving and being an advocate for others and is thrilled to continue this work at CJA.
Braxton Tucker Specials Faculty Member tucker@cjacademy.org Bio
Braxton graduated from Portland State University with a dual major in Economics and Social Science and was also a student athlete on the men’s basketball team. He completed a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction at Colorado Christian University while also working as an advisor for Trio (a program for first generation college students). He then joined the Relay Graduate Program, completing his second Masters degree, and taught 7th grade English Language Arts at Arthur Ashe Charter School in New Orleans. Braxton was born in Alexandria, Virginia and raised in Tacoma, Washington. He is so excited to be part of the CJA community! In addition to teaching, Braxton coaches basketball,football and assists with Boys Scouts.
Kelly Tyson Head of School tyson@cjacademy.org Bio
Kelly Baker Tyson holds a Master of Arts in Planning, Policy and Leadership Studies from University of Iowa. She has served in public, private independent and charter schools as a general education teacher, special education teacher, and administrator, earning recognition for excellence in teaching mathematics through the St. Louis Science Center and Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb award, participating in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program, and earning the Illinois Charter School Principal of the Year award in 2018. Kelly serves as a Board Trustee for American Youth Foundation and North Shore Country Day School. She is a former Board Trustee of Central Institute for the Deaf and former Missouri foster parent. Kelly enjoys spending time with her husband, Cleveland, and daughters Kendall and Karah.
Janet Underwood Academic Consultant underwood@cjacademy.org Bio
Janet Underwood retired from Sacred Heart Schools on Sheridan Road in 2005 where she served for fourteen years, first as Principal of Hardey Preparatory, then as Head of Schools for both the Academy and Hardey Prep and finally as Head of the Lower School of both the Academy and Hardey Prep. Prior to that, she was Dean of Students at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart from 1975 to 1978. Janet earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Barat College of the Sacred Heart, studied Theology at Catholic University of America and earned a Master of Science in Administration degree from University of Notre Dame. She served and completed two three-year terms as a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Ignatius College Prep where she chaired the School Programs Committee. Janet also served a three-year term on the Ancona School Board of Trustees. Mrs. Underwood served as a member of the Educational Committee for the Clinical Pastoral Educational Program of the Church Home at Montgomery Place, a social service agency of the Episcopal Charities and Community Services of Chicago. She also served two, three-year terms on CJA’s Board of Directors, rotating off of the board in June of 2018. Janet continues to serve as a member of the Academic Affairs Committee, which she chaired during her time on the Board.
Byron Vaca Facilities Manager vaca@cjacademy.org Bio
Byron Vaca began his career working for Standard Parking, mainly in downtown Chicago, with Marriott Hotels and restaurants. While at Standard Parking, he also worked for Urban Gateways, an organization that provides cultural events for schools and park districts in Chicago and the suburbs. Byron enjoys listening to music in his free time and has played with groups in South America, Europe and Canada over the last 30 years where he shares his love for Andean music. Prior to joining CJA, Byron also served on the Gourmet Gorilla staff. He loves fixing anything that is broken and is happy to be a member of the Facilities team.
Tom Van Grinsven Vice President of Operations vangrinsven@cjacademy.org Bio
Tom Van Grinsven came to CJA in 2012 after serving as a City Year Corps Member in Boston, where he served at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School. A Chicago native and a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from the College of the Holy Cross where he also served as the captain of the Men’s Varsity Soccer team. In addition to his work at CJA, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in June of 2018.
Teresita Vega Staff Accountant vega@cjacademy.org Bio
Teresita Vega joined CJA’s Accounting team in January 2023. She has spent all of her professional career working in the nonprofit sector in different capacities in the Accounting and Finance fields both in Mexico and the USA. She holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Guanajuato, Mexico, and a Masters of Business Administration from Lewis University of Romeoville, IL.
Holly Wallace Manager of Transition to High School wallace@cjacademy.org Bio
Holly Wallace joins the High School Bridge team as the Assistant Director, after serving over 3 years as the Director of Education & Workforce Initiatives for the Housing Authority of Cook County where she created scholarship, after-school, and summer job programs in addition to developing workforce training opportunities for Housing Authority clients. She began her work in urban education with Providence Englewood Charter School where she raised funding for the school’s creation and created a tutoring program as well as a mentoring program that is similar to CJA’s High School Bridge program. Holly has a bachelor’s degree in History & Economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA in Finance from Columbia University in New York, NY.
Susan Weber Development Assistant weber@cjacademy.org Bio
Susan Weber joined the Development team in the Fall of 2018. She earned a B.S. in Supply Chain Management from The Pennsylvania State University. Following graduation, she worked for Procter & Gamble in a variety of Transportation and Project Management-related assignments across three locations including Kobe, Japan. During a career break to raise her three children, she made volunteering a priority and served in many roles at schools in both Ridgefield, CT and Naperville, IL, spanning elementary through high school.
Julian Wicks Faculty Member wicks@cjacademy.org Bio
Julian Malik Wicks is a 2011 graduate of Chicago Jesuit Academy and grew up on the west side of Chicago on North Avenue and Laramie. Following CJA, he went to the Fountain Valley School of Colorado in Colorado Springs, CO and returned to Illinois for college due to his brother and father passing away during his time in high school. While attending Knox College in Galesburg, IL, Julian majored in Educational Policy and English Literature with goals of being a dean of a school. He teaches 6th Grade math at CJA and is excited to bring an alumni presence into the classrooms of the school. It’s our duty to give back to our community and he is excited to see where this journey takes us!
Jason Williams Instructional Assistant williams@cjacademy.org Bio
Elizabeth Wilson Director of Learning Support ewilson@cjacademy.org Bio
Elizabeth Wilson received her BA in Special Education from Illinois State University as a Learning and Behavior Specialist. She began her career at Fremont Elementary School in Mundelein, IL as the K-1 Learning and Behavior Specialist. She then went to Grayslake North High School to become the Special Education Reading Specialist. While at Grayslake she attended Benedictine University for her MA as a Reading Specialist. She recently became a Wilson Level 1 certified dyslexia practitioner in 2017 and was awarded Learning Ally’s Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018.
Dave Zalesky Student Recruitment, Director of Compliance, Volunteer Coordinator zalesky@cjacademy.org Bio
Dave Zalesky joined CJA as a teacher in the summer of 2017 after attaining a Masters in Education from Northwestern University. Prior to this career switch, he spent 19 years as a floor trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange. He also graduated from Duke University with a degree in biomedical engineering. At CJA, Dave currently coordinates Student Recruitment, is the Director of Compliance, and is the Volunteer Coordinator – plus he has taught 5th grade math and Bike Club. Dave grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and currently lives in the city with his wife and two kids.

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